Calls continue for Wahluke board member to resign

by RACHAL PINKERTON
Staff Writer | July 25, 2020 8:00 PM

MATTAWA — Nine people, including alumni, teachers and one school board member, spoke out against Wahluke School Board member Seth Weeks — and comments he has made on social media — during the community comment portion of a Wahluke School Board meeting on Tuesday, July 14.

It was the second school board meeting in which Wahluke staff members have called for Weeks’ resignation. During a meeting on June 23, three staff members and one visitor from the west side called on Weeks to resign. The main thrust of the calls for resignation is perceived racism and a perceived lack of a belief in science on Weeks’ part.

During the July 14 board meeting, racism was the main cause cited for why Weeks should resign.

Daisy Pfeifer, a teacher in the district for six years, said that the Mattawa community is over 90 percent Hispanic and that board members should represent the community they serve. Alumna Jessica Arellano-Cruz said that it was “absolutely disappointing” that Weeks “denies racism.”

“Racism is not an opinion,” said Erin Haliburton, who is going into her seventh year teaching at Wahluke High School. “It is an attitude that harms students.”

Le Vasha Murdoch, president of the Wahluke teachers union, told the board that if they couldn’t be “open-minded” and willing to learn, they shouldn’t be on the board.

“If you don’t believe in systemic racism or COVID-19, resign,” Murdoch said.

Wahluke Junior High teacher Bryan Vasquez asked Weeks why he had not attended the equity conference put on by the school district since the last board meeting.

That same question was repeated by Wahluke School Board member Jesse Chiprez, who also chose to speak during the community comment time.

Chiprez said that he was sad that Weeks hadn’t made the decision to resign from the school board.

“You don’t have to be squeaky clean,” Chiprez said. “I have things in my past. You have to change going forward. I am aware that I have to change how I speak.”

Chiprez said that he has experienced systemic racism growing up at the hands of “men who should have protected us.”

“I lived the stories,” Chiprez said. “Systemic racism is alive.”

Chiprez also mentioned the COVID-19 statements that Weeks had made on social media. He mentioned various groups in the Mattawa community, such as family members, children at migrant daycares, Wahluke teachers and students, who have gotten sick.

“Our students and teachers are special to us,” Chiprez said. “Even if we’ve never met them and we don’t know their name, they are part of our community.”

Chiprez ended his comments by demanding that Weeks resign from the board, adding that he believed that Weeks probably would not.

Weeks did not comment in response during the meeting.

A few days after the earlier meeting, Weeks told The Sun Tribune that people who know him know that he is not racist. He also said that he loves the students he mentors and coaches like they were his own.

Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at rpinkerton@suntribunenews.com.